September 6, 2012

unblock: knitting

Every creator I know faces creative blocks, and for me, these blocks threaten not only to stall me in the present, but to send me spiraling backward in despair. I am learning to identify practices which help to me to let go of forcing my thoughts and instead allow my thoughts to take their own journey which I might follow. I have not yet built up my creative endurance as much as I would like, and despite my best ambitions, it is hard to sit and write for hours straight. When I feel all of my words and thoughts locking up into a frustrating block in my head, or when my fingers are fighting the keyboard instead of dancing at graceful speed, sometimes it helps to pick up something different. For me, the practices that work best are structured, and allow my mind to wander. 
I have been knitting for many years now, thanks to my original knitting teacher: my wonderful friend Therese! Knitting is structured and logical for me (I am a stickler for using patterns, for the most part) but also gives me sensory rewards as well as a feeling of accomplishment. I savor the feeling of the bamboo needles against my fingertips, and the soft, comforting texture of the yarn passing through my right hand as it knits into lovely stitches on my needles. Progress is easily marked and observed, which is not always true in my writing. There is clarity in the right and wrong way to knit, when right and wrong might not seem very clear in my writing. And knitting changes the patterns of my hands and allows my thoughts to drift without eliminating a sense of productivity. 
For many years, I would knit mostly while watching TV, and I still often do (it makes my TV habits feel more "productive!"). But I am learning that knitting in silence offers a different experience for me. My knitting becomes an outlet for my energy, and loosens up my body and gives me a clear place to focus. But it doesn't require too much focus, so I can enter the world of my thoughts. Sitting at my computer staring into space and drifting into thought most often reminds me of my failure to write. But letting my thoughts flow freely while my hands are busy has been a wonderful detour when I face creative blocks.
I find that the best knitting practice comes with projects that offer really repetitive stitch patterns and don't require a lot of attention paid to the printed pattern. Otherwise, the project can become a distraction that occupies my mind more than my hands. 
I tend to let myself fall into the trap of making my writing feel like my "work" in a way that feels really pressured. Studies have shown that the learning process more effective when you take breaks and truly relax to let your subconscious sift through the information you are absorbing, rather than expecting your mind to absorb a constant, uninterrupted stream of information. I believe the same can be true in our creative practice: we need to give ourselves permission to let our thoughts wander as necessary, so they might gather themselves again to be recorded on the page.
Have you found any practices which help you to "unblock" like this? I am always looking for new practices to try!


  1. Beautiful knitting Cayt! I can see how it is inspiring you! As always, I love how you 'stitch' your words together so sweetly!

  2. Awww thanks to my wonderful knitting teacher!!! :) So kind of you to be reading and thank you for teaching me a craft that helps me in so many ways!! :) xo

  3. I am learning how to knit because I want to feel that my hands can make productive beautiful things.

  4. Hi Elba! How exciting!! I wish you the best of luck as you begin - are you working on anything special? Thank you for reading and sharing... happy knitting!!